Syphilis cases increasing locally

Infectious syphilis cases have been on a rise across Canada according to data published by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Currently, Public Health Sudbury & Districts is seeing a concerning increase of syphilis cases within its service area. In all of 2022, a total of 31 confirmed cases were reported, with 23 cases already been reported to date in 2023. Public Health is encouraging awareness, practising safer sex, and following up with your health care provider and getting tested if you are at risk.

“Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, and early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial to prevent the progression of the disease and its complications,” said Taylor McCharles, a manager in Public Health’s Sexual Health Program. “If you are sexually active, practise safe sex, and talk with your partner about their sexual history and STI status. You can also talk to your health care provider for more information on testing.”

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria, that can lead to severe consequences if left untreated. Syphilis spreads through sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as through contact with syphilis sores or rashes. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant person to their fetus, which can cause serious harm and may lead to the death of the fetus. Syphilis has several stages, each with its own symptoms and complications. The symptoms of syphilis vary between stages of infection.

In the first stage, a painless sore may appear at the site of entry (mouth, genitals, anus) 10 to 90 days after exposure. This sore heals without treatment in a few weeks, but the syphilis bacteria remain in the body. In the second stage, an individual may experience flu-like symptoms 2 to 12 weeks after the primary stage. A rash may appear on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or elsewhere on the body. The rash will disappear without treatment, but the syphilis bacteria remain in the body, and the individual is highly contagious during this phase.

If left untreated, syphilis can progress to the latent (dormant) stage where no symptoms are present, but the infection can be transmitted. In the third stage, syphilis can cause paralysis, loss of vision, heart and nerve problems, or death 10 to 30 years later.

Public Health’s Sexual Health Clinic provides free, confidential testing and counselling services. Testing involves a simple blood test or a swab of the sore. Other tests depend on the stage and symptoms of the infection. If a test comes back positive, antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection.

For more information on syphilis or to book an appointment for testing, please visit or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 482 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

This item was last modified on April 21, 2023